House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was honduras.


Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have learned a lot in preparing for this bill in terms of the incredible importance in the north and the communities that really depend on this activity, certainly in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Even in the member's area, the coast of B.C., there is interest in what goes on.

There are a lot of issues that go on in the seal business. We talked about whether there are too many seals. This particular industry has been established. It had a black eye decades ago. There are images, such as of Paul McCartney and his wife out on the ice, and it becomes very dramatic. By the way, that in itself was a safety issue, but we will leave that one alone.

What we are finding from reasonably thinking people in Canada is that, whether or not they like the industry, it is a legal, legitimate industry that provides a lot of income and support to families. In that case, if it is going to be done, which it is, then people want to see the industry protected in the right way. Nobody believes those illegal activities should be condoned or supported. This is one more effort to make sure the illegal activity is controlled.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, I thank the hon. member for West Nova for introducing the bill. It is an important issue in our province and our region, as well as Quebec and other parts of this country.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about the reasons I think the bill is important and also address some of the mythology and controversy that surround seal fishing.

For coastal communities across the Atlantic region, Quebec, and Nunavut, the seal harvest represents a traditional way of life. Many fishermen and first nation communities earn their livelihood by fishing for seals in late winter or early spring. The seal hunt in the gulf is under way now.

Our indigenous people have been fishing seal for over 4,000 years and our European ancestors and early Canadian settlers fished for seals starting in the early 1600s. It was once considered an honourable way of life to make a living in Canada.

Seals provided food for coastal families and communities, the skins and pelts were used for clothing, and the oil was used for heating and lights. Much of the same is true today. Seals continue to be a primary source of food for the Inuit and coastal communities; the skins and pelts are still used for clothing; and the oils, containing omega-3, are now used for health benefits.

However, there is a growing mythology surrounding the seal harvest that the practice is neither sustainable nor humane. Like any practice of hunting or fishing, when managed correctly, I believe the seal industry is both sustainable and humane.

Seal populations in the Atlantic have seen a dramatic increase over the past 40 years. The Atlantic grey seal population has seen a thirtyfold increase since the 1960s, while the Atlantic harp seal population has quadrupled since the early 1970s. Its population today is estimated to be over eight million. Currently, fishing allotments of seals do not threaten their sustainability.

Research out of the Atlantic Veterinary College has consistently shown that current methods of killing seals are humane. Thousands of hours of research have been put into the study, and that research continues.

Let me be clear. My New Democrat colleagues and I support a humane harvest, and any cruelty to animals is completely unacceptable. We continue to urge the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to monitor the harvest carefully to ensure that all safety regulations are carried out.

I also want to take a moment to talk about the difference between the seal harvest and a seal cull. When I speak to many Canadians about this issue, there seems to be some confusion.

The seal harvest is a fishery in support of a commercial industry. It is managed similarly to other fisheries, such as lobster or groundfish. The harvest takes place annually during late winter, usually from February until late March. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans establishes a total allowable catch every year based on the precautionary approach and scientific research.

A cull, on the other hand, is a process of removing animals to achieve a specific goal. A seal cull has been proposed by the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in a bid to conserve cod stocks. Seals are a known predator of cod, and it has been hypothesized that reducing the seal populations could help the recovery of the cod in Atlantic Canada.

This has been a very controversial recommendation, and my office has received numerous calls and emails from concerned Canadians. Again, I want to be clear and say that we do not support this recommendation. I believe that any cull needs to be backed by scientific research, and it simply does not exist in this case. An experimental cull just to see what happens is completely unacceptable.

Jeff Hutchings, a renowned marine biologist from Dalhousie University, testified in front of the Senate committee and said the following:

In my view, a cull of grey seals for the purpose of improving fisheries productivity would represent an insufficient reason for initiating such a cull for two reasons. First, the effects of such a cull, as I indicated, on the recovery of cod or other species cannot be credibly predicted from a science perspective; and second, the deliberate killing of one species native to Canada because of the human-induced depletion of another native species, ultimately caused by politically expedient but scientifically unjustified management decisions, would be difficult to defend from a variety of perspectives.

It is important to note that 20 years after the collapse of the cod fishery, Atlantic Canadians are still dealing with the devastation that overfishing can cause. That is why my New Democrat colleagues and I fully support fishery management decisions based on science. We will continue to call upon the Conservative government to reduce the cuts it has made to scientific research in Canada, and specifically to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, so that it can carry out its mandate to protect fish and fish habitat and to manage our fisheries.

It is the controversial nature of the seal harvest that has led to the proposal for this bill. Fishing is a dangerous occupation. We lose far too many fishermen at sea every year because of accidents or weather. That is why I will be supporting this bill at second reading.

The bill seeks to strengthen the marine mammal regulations, increasing the distance individuals can be from active seal fishing. Earlier, in my question to the sponsor of the bill, I made the point that if any distance regulations are not enforced by the authorities, they are meaningless. I recognize that there was an incident a couple of years ago. However, it has been conveyed to me that, while the industry appreciates this increase in distance, from a safety point of view it wishes the authorities would properly enforce whatever regulations are there to provide protection. Having been involved in workplace health and safety issues for much of my life, that is what this comes down to.

In conclusion, all Canadians have the right to protest and voice their opinions. However, interfering with seal fishing is dangerous for all those involved. This bill would help keep fishermen, DFO employees, observers, and the general public safe.

I look forward to studying the bill in more detail at committee in the upcoming weeks.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join in this debate as well. I have had an opportunity to discuss this with our fisheries critic, the member for Cardigan, who recommends that we support this legislation.

There are two aspects to this legislation, and they are the proximity of firearms and the impact of them on the ice.

I grew up in the coastal community of Glace Bay. My riding is predominantly coastal. Anybody who grows up along the coastline of Nova Scotia knows the perils of the ice.

There were not many playgrounds in Glace Bay in the sixties. It was a pretty modest community, and my neighbourhood was certainly modest. I had the great benefit of having the Atlantic Ocean about a nine iron away from my front door. In the summer, it was our swimming pool. In the fall, when the tide was coming in, we would race around the extending points trying not to get knocked over by the incoming tide. In March, the drift ice and the pack ice that came into the coast of Glace Bay became our playground, and we would go down on the ice, much to the chagrin of our folks.

The member for South Shore—St. Margaret's probably went home being wet up to the kneecaps. I recall getting a crack on the behind a number of times because I would be scootching. But I was a kid, six feet tall, and bulletproof. I did not understand the perils of the ice, but that is where we spent a lot of time as kids. My heart would be in my mouth if my own kids went down to play on the ice now.

Living close to the ocean, one becomes a bit ice-savvy and aware of shifts in the ice. A change in the direction of the wind or the wind picking up shifts the ice and opens up perilous water. It is easy to get in trouble.

One can only imagine sealers on the ice and the great peril they would be in if a boat were in close proximity. The shifting of the ice would place the sealers in peril.

I appreciated the comments by my colleagues from West Nova and Dartmouth—Cole Harbour that we look beyond the debate about the seal hunt. The seal hunt is a legitimate industry and should be treated as such. This is not a debate about the legitimacy or the necessity of the seal hunt. We are past that. All parties in the House support our sealers and the sealing industry.

I am very fortunate to have a progressive company in my own riding, Louisbourg Seafoods. Jimmy Kennedy is the owner, and Dannie Hansen is the CAO. They are looking at ways to better serve the sealers and access the great resource that we have with seals. They are very high in protein content. They are looking at ways to process that product and bring it to market, so that it gets the value it deserves.

I have been fortunate in my time in the House. Over the last 14 years, I have had the opportunity to sit on fisheries and oceans committee. It was six years ago when my colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's was chair of the committee and my colleague from Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission was parliamentary secretary. We had the opportunity to go out on the ice.

We choppered out to a Canadian Coast Guard ship and we were able to monitor the hunt taking place. We brought with us a number of leading veterinarians from Prince Edward Island. They, along with us, were able to get on the ice.

The study itself was driven by the seal hunt and whether or not the harvesting practices were adequate.

The strong evidence that we were able to witness and the strong testimony that was shared with us by the veterinarians was overwhelming that this is indeed a humane harvesting practice and is something that we should not be fearful of. They referred to it as an abattoir on the ice. They said this is absolutely every bit as humane as any slaughterhouse in this country. That is one aspect that really stuck with me.

The other one was the peril that sealers place themselves in in order to take part in this fishery. They are out there in the elements. They are on the ice, and the ice is moving. They are exposed to those types of things. I was really impressed with just how nimble they were in getting around on the ice while they took part in the fishery, but it was obvious that the danger and the fear factor were great while they went about and plied their trade. Most were using the hakapik, but some were using firearms.

The bill addresses not just the ice and the movement of the ice, but it would also provide that additional buffer, that additional security for those who are using high-powered firearms in the harvesting of the seals.

I remember the conversation at the time at committee. We had wondered at the time whether a greater buffer should be placed between observers and those who were harvesting the seals. I recall those discussions coming out of that particular study and I believe a recommendation had been made there.

I think the bill being presented today makes absolute sense. It would allow for a safer work environment for those in the fishery as well as for the observers, who absolutely have a legitimate right to take part, to observe, to hold to account those who are in the midst of that harvesting. We certainly acknowledge and respect their right to be there, but it would also give them a much higher degree of safety as they go about their business and do the necessary observation.

I want the member and the House to know that we agree with the principle of the bill. I am sure that my colleague, the member for Cardigan, will continue to work with the member on it as it goes forward, but I am pleased to stand here today and recognize its merit and offer it support.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.


Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate and to share our government's perspective on Bill C-555. Let me begin by congratulating the member for West Nova, who represents his constituents so well and is leading the charge to protect the safety of all those involved with the seal hunt.

It is clear that our government is committed to developing regulations that are fair and enforceable. This bill, which proposes amendments to the marine mammal regulations, is of great importance, as it concerns the safety of everyone involved in the seal harvest. That is why our government is supporting this bill.

Marine mammal regulations regulate matters with respect to the management and control of fishing for marine mammals and related activities in Canada or in Canadian waters. The proposed bill would require the Governor in Council to amend the marine mammal regulations to increase the distance that a person must maintain from another person who is fishing for seals, except under the authority of a seal fishery observation licence. To be clear, the intention is to preserve the authority and discretion of the Governor in Council to modify the regulations in the future through the normal regulatory process, as opposed to having to do it by legislation. The proposed change to the regulations would increase from one-half nautical mile to one nautical mile the distance that an unlicensed observer must keep from a person who is fishing for seals. It is a pretty simple bill.

Every year, the Canadian seal harvest attracts observers. Seal fishery observation licences are provided to people wishing to observe the hunt where the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans determines that issuing the licence will not disrupt the seal fishery. Licensed observers have been and will continue to be able to monitor Canada's commercial seal harvest in accordance with the existing regulations and related licence conditions. Our government strives to ensure that there is a balance between the rights of observers and those of sealers, as well as overall safety for everyone.

What this bill would do is to help address the ongoing concerns about unlicensed observers who may pose a threat to the safety of everyone involved in the seal harvest. Let me be clear that Canadian sealers have nothing to hide from the public. However, in order to respond more quickly to the actions of dangerous activists, like those who have a stated purpose of disrupting the seal hunt and who act accordingly, this bill proposes amendments to the marine mammal regulations to increase the distance that individuals must stay away from sealers engaged in sealing activities. These changes would be made to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the seal hunt: hunters, observers, fisheries officers, and others.

Our government respects the rights of organizations and individuals to voice their opposition to the seal harvest. We will not, however, tolerate reckless activities that risk the safety of sealers, observers, and everyone else involved in the hunt. The proposed amendment is aimed at strengthening the management of the seal hunt to ensure that it can continue in a safe, humane, and orderly manner while further improving the safety of everyone involved. This important change would strengthen enforcement activities and assist in improving the management of the seal fishery observation licensing regime. This bill would afford enforcement officials who are operating in dangerous conditions more time to react when there is an incident such as occurred in 2008.

The Canadian seal harvest is humane, sustainable, and conducted in an open and transparent manner. Our government remains unwavering in its commitment to defend our sealing businesses and to preserve our rural coastal communities. Communities in Atlantic Canada, eastern Quebec, and the north have relied on the seal hunt as a way of life for centuries. Whether it is opening new markets or protecting traditional ones, Canadian sealers know our government is there to fight for them.

The proposed amendments to the regulations come at a time when the communities that rely on our traditional industries, like the seal harvest, need a government that is willing to fight for their rights. Canada's seal hunt has the highest standards of practice for any animal hunt in the world. Yet the European Union has placed a discriminatory ban against our seal products. Our government will continue to fight for the Canadian seal hunt in whatever arena possible, including the World Trade Organization. We are proud to protect a traditional, sustainable, and historic way of life for Canadian sealers across this great country.

The measures taken by the European Union have struck a blow to sealers in the north, in Quebec, and Atlantic Canada, to their families, and to Canada as a whole. Our government has taken decisive action to defend Canadian sealers in light of the European Union's very discouraging ban on seal products.

Our government has made repeated and unrelenting efforts to show the European Union and its member states the value of the seal hunt to Canadians and has challenged the European Union's ban in the World Trade Organization. We were very disappointed in the findings of the World Trade Organization panel last November that the ban could be justified on the basis of public moral concerns, and we have filed an appeal with the World Trade Organization appellate body.

One of the main concerns provoking the debate in Europe and the movement to ban seal products has to do with considerations related to the well-being of the animals. Our government is committed to applying the strictest standards in this area. That is why we have sought the best scientific advice on humane harvesting methods and adapted our regulations and licensing criteria based on that advice.

There has been an ongoing campaign put forth against Canadian sealers for a number of decades now, loaded with inaccurate and misleading allegations. It has been alleged that the seal harvest provides few economic benefits. That is false. It has been alleged that Canadians paid millions in subsidies and administrative costs for a seal harvest that is uneconomic. That is also false.

As important as the regulations are, it is also important to note that Fisheries and Oceans Canada also carries out effective monitoring, control, and surveillance programs on the sealing grounds and in coastal communities. Fisheries and Oceans is continually making improvements to its monitoring program to ensure compliance with regulations, which result in a humane and sustainable hunt. These actions should dispel the notion that the hunt is impossible to regulate and manage effectively. The Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Quebec Provincial Police work in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans enforcement staff to monitor compliance and to enforce the regulations.

We are standing up in defence of the Canadians sealers' right to earn a living, and we will continue to do so. It is about protecting everyone involved in the seal harvest, and it is the right thing to do. I thus invite all members to join me in supporting Bill C-555.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill C-555, an act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence), but the bill, like so much other lip service the Conservative government pays to the east coast seal hunt, is a charade, a charade to make it appear that the government is actually doing something for the hunt, for sealing. It is a sham to make it appear that the government is defending the seal hunt, an illusion to make it appear that the government is a champion of the seal hunt. All the bill amounts to is Conservative sleight of hand.

Bill C-555 would increase the distance an unofficial observer, in other words, anyone who is not there to hunt, a seal protester, for example, must keep from the sealing. Right now it is against the law for an unofficial observer to come within a half nautical mile of the hunt. Bill C-555 would increase that buffer zone to a full nautical mile, so it would increase from a half nautical mile to a full nautical mile.

However, the half-mile buffer there now is not enforced, so increasing the distance to a full nautical mile is lip service. That is what I mean by lip service. It basically means nothing.

It is a good concept, and it is one my party supports. How could we not? It is about safety, in theory anyway, but for all intents and purposes, it means nothing. Sealers on the ground in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador say that it is a good idea, but they do not see how it would change anything.

Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association, says it is frustrating, because as it stands, regulations are not enforced with the half nautical mile zone. Now the Conservatives would increase the buffer zone to a full mile. Who are they trying to fool? It is nobody on this side of the House, nobody back home in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are not fooling us, so what is the purpose of the bill? There is no purpose. It is a nuisance bill.

The Conservatives are trying to divide the New Democratic caucus on the seal hunt, only there is no divide. New Democrats fully support a humane and sustainable hunt. It is our policy, period, end of discussion.

The 1985 report of the Royal Commission on Seals and the Sealing Industry in Canada quoted a sealer/fisherman, which are one and the same, who described himself back then, 29 years ago, as an endangered species. Let me quote that fisherman/sealer:

I am endangered but I still fight back. I will survive. I will not let animal rights become more important than human rights. I will not let people give souls to animals while they rob me of my human dignity and right to earn a livelihood.

Today's sealer/fisherman is more endangered than ever. Outport Newfoundland and Labrador is more endangered than ever. The commercial fisheries are more endangered than ever. Sealers and fishermen are one and the same. Sealers are fishermen. Fishermen are sealers. Their livelihoods are in jeopardy. Their numbers dwindle every year.

According to the news back home this week, the fishermen's union is raising red flags about the possibility of significant cuts to the total allowable catch for the northern shrimp fishery. Shrimp has been one of the most lucrative fisheries since the collapse of the groundfish stocks, such as cod, in the early 1990s.

Just today the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies released a report on the east coast fishery, a report that slams the Conservative government for failing to reform fisheries management, two decades after the cod moratorium.The northern cod fishery was shut down in 1992, 22 years ago, and there is still no recovery plan. How shocking is that?

Sealers are fishermen. They are one and the same. What does the Conservative government have to offer? It increases the buffer zone for seal hunt observers to one nautical mile from a half nautical mile. It is a charade, a sham, an illusion, a joke.

I attended Seal Day on the Hill back in February, a day when government reaffirmed its support for the seal hunt, but the proof of the government's commitment to the seal hunt is not in the pâté, but in the policy, in the action. The east coast seal hunt has seen the biggest collapse of seal markets in its history under the Conservative government. That is a fact.

Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Taiwan, the European Union and all of its member countries have banned the importation of Canadian seal products while the Conservative government has sat idly by touting its undying support. What happened to China and to the markets there that the Conservative government was poised to tap into? What happened to those markets? Silence.

The Conservative government is on the verge of a free trade deal with the European Union, but if the government were so solidly behind the seal hunt, like it says it is, why did it not make the seal ban a make or break issue during those trade talks? Instead the Conservative government agreed to have the EU ban decided by the World Trade Organization, which upheld the ban last fall. The Conservative government is appealing the WTO's decision, but again, if the government were serious it would have made the EU ban a make or break consideration in trade talks. It did not.

Instead we see empty action, or nuisance bills like this one, to increase the buffer zone around the hunt from half a nautical mile to a full nautical mile when the government cannot even enforce the half nautical mile zone. The sealer today is as endangered as the fishermen. They are one and the same. There is no vision for the fishery or the seal hunt, no blueprint for rebirth.

The Conservative government's latest move regarding the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery is to eliminate minimum processing requirements as part of the EU trade deal. Now the trade deal is a good one. The elimination of seafood tariffs is a fabulous thing. It is being lauded in all quarters of the fishery, but the question must be asked, what will be the impact on our fisheries, on our processing sector, of the lifting of those minimum processing requirements?

The Conservative government does not give up $280 million in compensation for nothing, especially when it has done nothing for our fisheries for decades, other than to cut the guts out of science, cut the guts out of fisheries management, and cut the guts out of enforcement.

To conclude, sealers and fishermen are one and the same. As I mentioned before, we support this bill for what it is worth, but it does not address the underlying problems of our seal hunt or of our fishers. Make no mistake, the fight in us is vicious yet. The seal hunt is a part of Newfoundland and Labrador culture. It is woven in our history. It is who we are. More so than any other slight, Newfie on down, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians take any criticism of the seal hunt as a direct personal attack, not just against us, who we are as a people, but against our forefathers and our very outport souls.

To attack the seal hunt is to attack Newfoundland and Labrador. To attack the seal hunt is to poke the bear that is the fighting Newfoundlander. But the government's trying to pull off a charade, a sham, an illusion that it is a defender of the hunt when it is not must also be pointed out. So if they increase the buffer zone around the hunt, fill your boots, Mr. Speaker.

Stand in the House and blow and sputter about all the Conservatives are doing in defence of the hunt, but the proof is in the action and there is none.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia


Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue and for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand in the House and support this private member's bill. I have a few words of advice for the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

I am a little surprised, because every once in a while we get a private member's bill that every party in the House can support. Usually we take that opportunity to commend the member for bringing the bill forward, and we recognize the good and salient points in the piece of legislation. We look at it as an opportunity to reach across the aisle, instead of trying to kick someone in the teeth.

I have heard foolishness before, but this is just patent foolishness. Here is the issue. It is an issue that every side of the House can agree on, so let us find ways to agree instead of disagree.

I suspect that the hon. member is smarting a little bit. As a new member of Parliament, he misspoke. He suggested that the seal hunt should be ended and that the days of the seal hunt were over. There was not any talk about it being in the blood of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. The language used was that it was time that we moved beyond it, that the seal hunt was a thing of the past. I know that he feels a little bad about that and is trying to make up for it, so we will forgive him for his remarks. However, I will not forgive him for failing to reach across the aisle and join hands on a subject we can agree on.

I was the chair of the fisheries committee for a couple of years. I sat on the fisheries committee, along with the parliamentary secretary and a number of other people in the chamber. Some very good work was done on that committee, and some very good work was done on the seal hunt. I got to be the chair at the time of the seal hunt report.

There are a couple of facts that have to be recognized. First of all, this is private members' legislation. It recommends doubling the distance for unlicensed observers. Most unlicensed observers are in vessels. They are not on the ice, they are in a vessel. The Farley Mowat attempted to ram sealers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Had it been successful, it probably would have killed those sealers. That is what we are talking about. We are talking about risk of life and limb.

I would go a step further and recommend to the hon. member for West Nova, who brought this bill forward, and to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans that we should look at the distance that we allow licensed observers to go. Quite frankly, there should be no licensed observers outside of the international group of veterinarians who are already on the ice during every single hunt.

This is the most closely managed large animal hunt in the world. We have RCMP officers on the ice. We have Fisheries and Oceans Canada officers on the ice. We have firearms folks on the ice. We have people from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency out there, making sure that the sealers have taken their courses on how to identify that the animal has been killed properly and how to skin the animal. We have the Coast Guard. We have the air force out there, monitoring the hunt. This is the most closely monitored large animal hunt in the world.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that we should allow anyone who is not a registered veterinarian closer than 300 metres or 400 metres. Over 90% of the seals are shot. Fewer than than 10% are killed with a hakapik. They are shot with .222s and .223s. Those firearms will easily fire that bullet for 400 metres or 500 metres over the ice. That is the distance that people should be pushed back. If someone is a veterinarian who knows what is going on and how the animal is dying, whether it has been killed properly or not, and can identify that, he or she has a special license and moves up closer. That would save a lot of the trouble here.

I have pictures that were sent to me from John Levy, coming in off Georges Bank. He is 120 miles offshore. He is longlining halibut, and he is bringing his longline in with halibut after halibut. These are 30- and 40-pound fish, some of them. The skin has been raked off and the fat has been eaten, and the fish has been destroyed by grey seals.

I worked off Sable Island for nearly a decade during the 1980s. In 1980, when we flew over Sable Island we could count the seals on the spit. There were harp seals on the southeastern spit, and I think it was the southeast and northwestern spit. There were grey seals on the other spit. We could literally count them.

Today, some 30 years later, there are 300,000 grey seals. The males weigh up to 600 pounds.

What do the people who are against the seal hunt think those animals live on? What do they think the seals eat? They are not vegetarians, I can assure members. They eat fish.

It is all about balance. We do not want to kill the last seal, absolutely not. However, there is a sustainable hunt here that could be extremely lucrative. These animals are full of fat and omega-3 oil. That oil is valuable. Whether we can harvest the meat is something to be determined in the future, beyond for local consumption. The oil alone deserves to be harvested. It is healthy oil. It is good for people. It is good for everyone.

There are a couple of other points I want to make here. One of them was mentioned by other speakers and that is misleading information. The European Union, which should be our friend, has listened to misleading information. I was privileged to go with the fish committee to the European Parliament. We presented to the committee on the environment in the European Parliament on the sustainability of the seal hunt.

It was a very acrimonious meeting. We acted like professionals, we presented our evidence, but we did not get a fair hearing. Somehow, we have to move beyond that.

The other thing that all governments need to do, the provincial governments as well, is lobby the Europeans. These decisions are made in the Parliament of Europe today. They are not made in the individual member states. We have to have a presence, and we have to have a lobbying effort in the European Parliament if we are going to move ahead with any changes to the rules or any changes to the regulations on the seal hunt.

We could do it unilaterally, but we want to have their support when it happens, if we can. If we cannot, then I say we should move ahead with it.

I will give an example of how many seals there are. In the 1970s or 1980s, people sailing off the south shore of Nova Scotia might see a seal. They would probably see a whale and they would definitely see blackfish, but they might see a seal.

Three years ago, I was out in Mahone Bay and every rock had a seal on it and there were two more in the water waiting to get on that rock when the first seal got off. They are everywhere. We have to be able to bring them under control, and we have to do that in a reasonable, sustainable, and responsible manner.

We can do that if we reach across the aisle and do not treat this as a political football. This is an important piece of legislation from a member of Parliament who represents a huge piece of the fishery in Canada. It is timely and it is well meant. If we apply this, it will help to control the seal industry and help our fishery develop to the potential it has.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Manicouagan has five minutes.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, unlike many of the issues that are brought before the House of Commons, which are quite abstract, this bill on the Marine Mammal Regulations reflects the contemporary nature of traditional practices that are part of everyday life in Canada's northern communities.

When I say “quite abstract”, I am referring to the theatrics that often go on here in the House, which I myself am guilty of from time to time. However, the subject of marine mammals, seals in particular, brings us down to earth because it is a tangible reality that can be seen in the everyday lives of northern communities, so much so that the term atshuk, which means “seal”, has become a proper noun. It is a name. My own cousin is named Atshuk.

Traditionally, the Innu community is not made up of fishers, at least not the community of Uashat. I know that there have been some fishers among the Mamit Innuat. People still fish for seals today. However, for the Innu of Uashat-Maliotenam, seals are simply something they see every day. They go about their everyday lives simply knowing that mammals, including seals, are there, since the St. Lawrence River is so close by. Uashat-Maliotenam is a coastal community. Its residents are able to see seals on a daily basis.

My father has sharper eyes than I do, and he will often tell me that he saw a seal that morning. We can call them seals or whitecoats. There are a number of terms that can be used. I am not an expert, and I am going to assume that it is seals people are seeing. My father's house faces the river and, in the winter, you can see seals on the ice.

Although the bill before us prohibits anyone who does not have a seal fishery observation licence issued by the minister to approach within one nautical mile of a person who is fishing for seals, the reality in coastal communities is that people live in close proximity to certain marine mammals.

I find it hard to imagine this distance of one nautical mile since these marine mammals live so close by. You can see them with the naked eye. When I read the bill, I realized that this distance pertains to activists and the way their activities and protests may interfere with fishing.

That has not been a problem in my riding. However, I have seen pictures of this sort of thing, just as every other Canadian has. I know that it can happen and that it can result in confrontations and people going out there and drawing international media attention. For example, we saw this with the Europeans.

These marine animals live close to humans. I am thinking of the bay in Sept-Îles, among other places. This distance of one nautical mile for observation or close contact with humans seems more or less right, since these animals get quite close to humans anyway.

We must also understand that the practice of hunting and fishing seals is a traditional practice. When I said “traditional” at the beginning of my speech, I was referring to the culture. For thousands of years, marine animals have been part of the daily diet of many communities.

As I was saying today, the last time this type of food and collective practice was brought to my attention, it was among the Mamit Innuat. These people live in the eastern part of my riding, from Natashquan eastward. Some communities make extensive use of this on a daily basis, but that is not necessarily so in my own community.

A quick read of the elements underlying the need to implement measures to define the distances from which to observe marine mammals suggests the sort of interference associated with groups and demonstrators who are ideologically opposed to the seal fishery.

I do not fish, myself, but I know that some communities do fish for food and use the fishery extensively, and that only bolsters what I have to say today. I think that my colleagues also believe in the importance of this practice. We must therefore support this essentially environmentally friendly practice.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member will have five minutes when we resume debate on this matter.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

The BudgetAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for tonight's opportunity to revisit a question that I first raised on February 14. I will repeat that question.

People in my region know all too well that highway 185 is deadly. It is one of the deadliest highways in Quebec. Phase three of work, the section between Saint-Antonin and Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, needs to be completed. The solution is to finish the Trans-Canada. Of the $14 billion announced yesterday, $4 billion was for national infrastructure, but this money will be allocated on the basis of merit and not provincial fairness.

Can the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs tell us whether the completion of the Trans-Canada—to save lives—is a project that will warrant quick access to the money for national infrastructure? I asked that question in February so that, after more than a year of waiting, we could finally know the terms of this infrastructure project and how much funding the federal government would invest in infrastructure.

The answer I got, like the majority of the answers we get from our friends opposite, was extremely disappointing and generic. The number 185 was not even mentioned in the response. There was one small element, at the very end, that may be of interest.

We look forward to hearing from municipalities and provinces what their infrastructure priority projects will be....

Tonight, I will try to get the government to go one step further on this, as it is an urgent need in my region. As recently as January 21, a young man, age 22, died in an accident on highway 185. That is another addition to a list of tragedies that is already far too long. In 10 years, approximately 100 people have died on this highway.

For us, turning highway 185 into highway 85 is not just a question of investing in infrastructure, it is also a question of public safety.

That tragedy happened on the stretch between Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! and Saint-Antonin, a section that is still waiting to be expanded in what is called phase three of the project. It is now estimated that the work on the stretch of highway between Saint-Antonin and Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! will cost more than $550 million. The federal government has already invested $320 million in phases one and two.

As I said before, it took too long to learn about the terms of the new federal infrastructure plan, which meant that neither the federal nor the provincial government would take any responsibility. Their little game sickened the people of Kamouraska, Rivière-du-Loup, Témiscouata and Les Basques. My constituents want the federal and provincial governments to stop this silly jurisdictional ping-pong game. They just want a safer highway.

It should be noted that the highway 85 project is part of the work needed to complete the Trans-Canada Highway, as I explained earlier. Is there a more national infrastructure than the Trans-Canada Highway?

On behalf of too many families that are in mourning and in the name of common sense, can the government give us the assurance today that phase 3 of highway 85 will have quick access to the money for national infrastructure?

This evening, we have the opportunity to stop the game of ping-pong and to have the federal government take another step forward by confirming the project's access to funding. This will not solve everything because an agreement with the province is required. This side of the House is aware of that.

I will say it once more to my colleague: the federal-provincial game of ping-pong must stop. This evening, I am reaching out to my colleague. Simply saying that they will agree to provide access to the funds would be a suitable way to stop this game of ping-pong and would be very much appreciated by the people in my region. My constituents have had enough. Too many people have suffered. This must stop.

The BudgetAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario


Peter Braid ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government is squarely focused on what matters most to Canadians: helping to create jobs and economic growth and securing Canada's long-term prosperity.

With the help of Canada's economic action plan, Canada's economy has seen the best economic performance among all G7 countries in recent years, both during the global recession and throughout the recovery.

Here are the facts to prove it.

Over one million net new jobs have been created in Canada since the end of the recession in July 2009. Over this period, Canada has had the strongest job growth record in the entire G7 by far. Furthermore, Canadians have also enjoyed the strongest income growth in the G7. Canada is the only G7 country to have more than fully recovered business investment lost during the recession.

A key component of Canada's strong economic performance has been our government's stable and predictable investments in communities across the country. Our government understands that investment in public infrastructure creates jobs, promotes economic growth, and provides a high quality of life for families in every city and community across the country. In recognition of the importance of efficient public infrastructure for Canada's economic prosperity and quality of life, our government has made significant investments since 2006 to build roads, bridges, subways, rail, and much more. Indeed, under the $33 billion building Canada plan launched in 2007, we supported over 12,000 infrastructure projects across Canada.

Furthermore, economic action plan 2013 builds on our government's historic infrastructure investments with $70 billion for public infrastructure over the next decade, including the $53 billion new building Canada plan for provincial, territorial, and municipal infrastructure. This is the largest and longest federal investment in job-creating infrastructure in Canada's history.

In fact, just recently the Prime Minister and the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs announced important details on the new building Canada plan. The new plan will provide municipalities, provinces, and territories with the information they need to plan public infrastructure projects in their own jurisdictions. The new plan supports projects that focus on economic growth, job creation, and productivity, including highways, roads, bridges, subways, commuter rail, and public infrastructure to ensure the prosperity of all Canadians.

While the opposition is determined to ignore these issues, they are the issues that Canadians care most about, and our government will stay focused on their priorities by providing a strong economy, lower taxes, and safe communities. Indeed, that is exactly what we have done in economic action plan 2014.

I will conclude by noting that regrettably, the member and his colleagues opposite recently voted against these measures and against communities across Canada.

The BudgetAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, are we not tired of hearing that?

I have a problem costing more than $550 million, and I have a list of about 100 people who have died on a highway that should be safer. Once again, without the slightest embarrassment or shame, the member opposite concluded his remarks by saying that we voted against all that. Once again, that answer does not even mention the problem raised here this evening, highway 185, the Trans-Canada Highway. None of that was mentioned.

I was trying to resolve a major problem for the RCMs of Kamouraska, Rivière-du-Loup, Témiscouata and Les Basques, a problem that concerns the federal government. It is a section of the Trans-Canada Highway. I asked a simple question. Can the government confirm whether it is possible to access the billions of dollars that have been announced? This problem will not be solved with $19 million or $30 million; it is going to take hundreds of millions of dollars. This evening, we have once again been given a generic answer. The members opposite are a bunch of used car salesmen.

The BudgetAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier and in the original response to this question in question period, our government has established the new building Canada plan. It was announced in budget 2013. Recently the Prime Minister and the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs announced further details and guidelines and indicated that the application process for the new building Canada plan will become available on March 31. That language is in the recent budget.

At that time, municipalities and provinces are open to apply and identify their infrastructure priorities. We empower the municipalities and provinces to identify what their infrastructure priorities and needs are. We look forward to receiving those applications, in this case from the Province of Quebec.

IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

March 6th, 2014 / 6:40 p.m.


Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is really sad. My colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup is doing an excellent job and wants to work for his constituents. It is very sad that there is no concern or help for people back home.

Unfortunately, on February 12 workers at the General Cable factory in La Malbaie received bad news, as we have been seeing far too often under this Conservative government.

In exactly one month, this factory, which manufactures wire, cable and optical fibres, will close down for good. As Mr. Couturier, the mayor of La Malbaie, said, another bomb has fallen on our region, which has already had its share of economic struggles. This will be the third electrical cable factory to close in Quebec in five years.

General Cable has closed factories in Quebec City and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in the past few years. Jobs have also been cut at the Saint-Jérôme and Shawinigan facilities. Unfortunately, the company plans on transferring contracts to the United States.

Today, I want to inform the House that General Cable won the contract to supply electrical cable to connect the Churchill Falls power station to the Newfoundland grid. However, despite what the company led employees to believe, this cable will now be manufactured at an American factory, while the company continues to close down Canadian ones. That is rather suspect.

I must say that I share the opinion of the workers and the committee that was put in place. They feel that the manufacturing facility should reopen and continue with the same activities or that we should go with plan B and transform the facility so that it can be used for another type of manufacturing.

Anything is possible. The expertise of the workers is one of the many strengths that would lead to the successful completion of this project. Given the draconian employment insurance measures that are having a direct impact on our corner of the country, we all want this facility to reopen. We all want the facility to be up and running again, and we all hope, of course, that the workers will be able to continue to have a decent standard of living.

However, is that what the current government really wants? The government has not done anything, has not provided any help to these people who have been working so hard to find a solution to the closure of this facility. It is also important to note that meetings are planned with General Cable executives to discuss the acquisition of the facility in La Malbaie and its equipment.

As Sylvain Tremblay, the reeve and a member of the committee, said, could the government not intervene in these discussions with the company and actively participate in helping the plant to reopen, which is what workers want? There are a number of possible solutions, but unfortunately, this government is once again not doing anything.

I imagine things would be quite different if we were talking about friends of the Conservatives today. No doubt the government would provide immediate assistance. In the most recent Conservative budget, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Infrastructure bragged about an emergency fund.

In my region, 60 people are waiting for help from the government. That is an emergency. Will the Conservatives one day realize that entire regions are in a state of emergency every day?

Before I close, I would like to make one more point. The closure of the manufacturing facility in my region is not an isolated incident. I think it is insulting to the people in my riding to say that this plant closure is an isolated incident.

IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Québec


Jacques Gourde ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and for his interest in the economic development of his region.

Our government is aware of the challenges faced by Quebec regions. That is why we are implementing concrete solutions tailored to the needs of businesses and regions across Canada.

My colleague's question gives me an opportunity to remind him that the mandate of Canada Economic Development is to support the long-term economic development of Quebec's regions.

Our approach is tailored to the challenges faced by businesses and the regions and builds on their strengths so that they can fully participate in the economy.

Our efforts are focused in part on supporting manufacturers, including those in Charlevoix, so that they are more innovative and competitive. We also support communities in their efforts to diversify their economies. My colleague's question provides me with an opportunity to point out the direct and tangible impact of our government's investments over the past year. In 2012-13, our government, through Canada Economic Development, invested $248 million in Quebec businesses and communities to support their development. Every dollar spent generated $2.34 in investment.

Of course we continue to be present on the ground and to care about the economic development and vitality of communities, including Charlevoix.

My colleague will agree that the Charlevoix-Est RCM has also benefited from Canada Economic Development programs and initiatives. Since 2006, more than $4 million has been allocated to various projects in the Charlevoix-Est RCM. This has generated total investments of more than $11 million. That is what it means to be present on the ground and to make a real difference.

Canada Economic Development's actions are aligned with the Government of Canada's priorities, which are jobs and the economy.

I want to remind the hon. member that during the economic recovery, the Canadian economy has had one of the best performances among the G7 countries.

Our government stands out in a positive way in terms of production and job creation. Since 2009, the number of jobs in Canada has increased by more than one million. That is the strongest growth in the G7.

What is more, in economic action plan 2014, we confirmed the implementation of the building Canada plan with $53 billion in investments across Canada over 10 years.

This is the largest long-term federal infrastructure commitment in the history of Canada.

These investments create jobs and promote economic growth in all the cities and communities in the country.

I want to assure my colleague that Canada Economic Development will continue to support the economic growth of all the regions in Quebec, including Charlevoix.

IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, does the government intend to do something about the General Cable manufacturing facility in La Malbaie, whether it is to provide funding or support or to hold discussions with company executives to help the workers reopen the plant?

IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, since my party took office, Canada Economic Development has always supported economic growth in all regions of Quebec. It will continue to do so. That is part of its mandate.

I would like to share with my colleague an overview of what Canada Economic Development has achieved since 2006. It has supported 4,575 projects and provided $2 billion in contributions, with a total of $8 billion in planned investments.

The companies that we supported said that 38,000 jobs have been created and 31,000 others have been maintained as a result of the initiatives and action taken by Canada Economic Development.

We will continue to work in partnership with Quebec companies, including those in Charlevoix. We will also continue to work with representatives of local organizations, other federal departments and the Government of Quebec to diversify the economy of Charlevoix.

IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:50 p.m.)